Archive for July, 2013



July 22, 2013


I hate weekends.

Okay. That might be a bit of a sweeping generalization.

I dislike weekends.

Nope. Not exactly that. More like: I hate a part of the weekend.

Specifically? I hate helping a certain seven year-old girl cut her toenails.

Because it feels like it takes up the entire weekend.

You think I jest? One recent day the task took us 45 minutes. Forty. Five. Minutes. That’s 4 ½ minutes per toe, people. Per. Toe.

She has absolutely no problem with fingernails. Not a lick. It’s all about the toes. There was no single traumatic event that jump-started the whole thing. And I can’t remember a time when it was ever easy. But over the years it has only gotten worse. Snowballing into major dread, anxiety and fear.

And we’ve tried to help. Doing it more often. Less often. One toe a day. Distractions. Minor bribery {which, if you’ve come to one of my workshops, you know that I know that it won’t create change. But we tried it anyway. Desperate times}.

No change.

Through it all, while she is busy not learning that this is actually an easy thing to do, I have learned something. I have learned that her response is not mine to manage. I cannot make her feel differently about it.

But I have also learned that if I’m not careful, I sure can make it worse. The sterner my voice, the more amped up the fear. You can’t bludgeon someone into calmness. And I’ve learned that logic speaks in a foreign tongue. I can explain, explain, explain in paragraphs of a great dissertation that she will not get hurt. The net effect? Nada. I have learned through trial and error and error again that I must be grounded. Calm. Empathetic. The minute I leave this state the process begins all over again.

So now, each time, I try to gently offer ways she can help herself. Encouraging her to snuggle her Bear-Bear. Teaching her how to take full, even breaths. Watching her develop her own positive self-talk. A seven year-old’s self-constructed mantra spoken through the slight lisp of newly missing teeth is, I admit, pretty darn cute.

And each time it is a different combination of snuggle-breathe-speak that gets her through. But only if I am still and relaxed. Then slowly, slowly, the nails get cut.

Do I wish this task were effortless? Every single time.

Do I wish we were spending the time doing just about anything else? You bet.

But I see that we are both learning. We are learning the same lessons each time. Maybe we’re poky. Maybe it’s nuanced. But it’s rare to master a new skill the very first time we try it, isn’t it?

But 45 minutes?

It isn’t what I imagine when I think of how to spend “quality time” together.

But maybe it is.

Maybe it is more important than any of the reading, laughing, playing. More important than any of the easy stuff, the fun stuff. Maybe learning to walk through the hard stuff with perseverance, love and grace is quality.

And still. And still I wish we could move beyond it. But then once we do there will be a new lesson to learn, won’t there?


Maybe that lesson can be learned on Mondays.

And for you? What are your lessons right now? What “quality time” is taking energy, patience and a few stiff drinks deep breaths of your own? I’d love to know which day of the week you are on. Keep me posted.



Independence Day

July 4, 2013

The big news at our house is that Eleanor just lost her first tooth. The baby tooth is gone- making room for the adult one to take its place. And now there is a gap- a space- left open until the grown-up tooth grows fully into place. A change that takes place ever-so-slowly and yet will suddenly be complete.

And this reminds me of Cole. Who just finished 6th grade. At 12, he is {at least in theory} 2/3rds of the way through his life here at home. 18 suddenly seems not so far away. The baby teeth of his youth are gone, but he hasn’t fully grown into adulthood.

He’s in the gap.

The gap is an interesting space. It needs to be held open in order for growth to take place. It reminds me of a childhood toy my husband had. A moveable contraption called a “push-me-pull-you”. This is the essence of the middle years. As we back away, handing more responsibility to him, we need to, at that same time, maintain and even step up our emotional closeness. Pushing one way, pulling another.

His new-found independence means he is becoming his own island nation. It means we spend less time together as he is making choices, thinking through options, finding solutions. It also means that during the time we do have together, I am aware of the need to fill it with a more intentional connection.

Like the fledgling years of a new country, the middle years of childhood are spent trying on new idea platforms, exploring new territories, formulating a personal bill of rights. As Queen, my rule As Mom, my role is to allow increased representation. To invite his voice, and decreasingly wield my influence. It is, hopefully, a smooth transition of power with as few border skirmishes as possible.

And while I can see clearly this framework for change, I don’t know where he is actually headed. I’m not sure he knows, either.

And so, we mind the gap.

Making sure that where there was rule now there is counsel. Where there were boundaries, there are now open fields.

And still, there is love.

So to all the parents of tweens, Happy Independence. How’s everyone’s constitution? Keep me posted.

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